Why ’13 Reasons Why’ is Vital to a Teenage Girl

Clarissa Bird is a high school junior from Austin, Texas who is frustrated by the lack of female protagonists in the media and annoyed by the negative reaction from teens and adults to ’13 Reasons Why.’ She wrote this post defending the show for Reel Girl.

It’s not hard to find a reason to hate the show “13 Reasons Why.” I’ve gotten lengthy emails from my school principal and counselor on how dangerous the show is without proper adult supervision. I’ve had a friend tell me her parents wouldn’t let her watch the show after reading an article on how it glamorizes and simplifies suicide. I’ve seen the headlines on how the show neglects the underlying causes of self-harm and how the entire plot is driven by petty teen drama. And to an extent, all of these reactions are valid. The show has major faults ranging from the over-the-top stunning actors who are just a little too hunky to play teenagers to the unbelievable teen fantasy of getting a new car for homecoming to more serious issues like subtle victim shaming and simplification of a female protagonist.


But for all of its missteps, there is something about watching one of the main characters, Clay, roll around on his crummy bike trying to uncover Hannah’s story that had my eyes glued to the screen. There was some innate pleasure I took from watching this tragic, teenage girl’s life spiral out of control as love interests and friends continually pulled the rug out from under her. In fact I liked it so much I watched all 13 episodes.

But, upon hearing people in my math class condemn the show and all those who enjoyed it, I seriously started to wonder what the heck was wrong with me for watching it. I never even seriously considered how horrible the show was before hearing classmates rail on it. Am I a terrible, selfish, psychopath because I liked this show about teen suicide? Was I really that ignorant about mental health and suicide that I thought this girl’s actions weren’t so irrational? What made this show that turned my once down to earth, sensible, classmates into condescending, drama critics so addicting to me?

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Hannah Baker’s relationship with her parents

Although the show is criticized for the fact that Hannah’s parents seem to be completely out of touch with their own daughter’s mental state, I found their relationship to be refreshingly relatable and not too far off base. One of my friends said that her main problem with their relationship was that the parents weren’t supportive enough, but it’s hard to support someone when they’re not really telling the whole truth. In “13 Reasons Why,” Hannah faces the familiar question of how much she’s really supposed to be sharing with her parents. Most high schoolers, including myself, tend to bend the truth or offer vague explanations in an attempt to satisfy the endless stream of parental inquiries. It’s a natural part of growing up to become more independent and this includes becoming more secretive and maybe not telling my parents exactly where I was last Saturday night or why I spend so much time “out with friends”.

A girl’s reality

“13 Reasons Why” does a great job of exposing all too common high school boy’s behaviors such as sharing non-consensual photos, objectifying girls through “best” and “worst” lists, and harassing and sometimes even assaulting girls. I loved watching it for this exact reason and from the moment I heard about the show I was excited to finally have a complicated, raw view of the teenage girl. As an audience we feel bad for Hannah when Justin shares intimate photos leading students to believe he had sex with her. We feel worse for Hannah when she kisses her friend on a dare and the rumor spreads she’s bisexual. We feel the deepest, gut-wrenching pain for Hannah when she’s raped. However, the show also reveals its moral universe as somewhere that Hannah’s rape can be labelled “worse” than her friend’s rape by the same boy, because in Hannah’s case she wasn’t drinking, smoking or flirting with the guy. And although I enjoyed the realistic portrait of a girl who can’t and won’t be pinned down or labelled as one thing, I was frustrated by Clay’s simplification of Hannah. He ultimately sees her as the victim of the school’s jocks, stalkers and petty girls and continually boxes her into the wholesome, girl-next-door character trope.

Inseparable from own life

One thing this show does painstakingly well is define a clear chain of events that leads to Hannah Baker taking her own life. From the first episode of the show, Hannah is portrayed as a normal, highschool girl who just wants to fit in at a new school. Although I knew the show ended with her suicide, I couldn’t help but root for Hannah hoping that maybe there was a twist ending and she was somehow alive. But, by the final episode I was in the same mental state as Hannah which I think is the major red flag for most people because the show seems to simplify suicide and blame other people for an ultimately self-inflicted act. I understood why Hannah couldn’t see a way to keep going. I could trace back all the horrible things that had contributed to Hannah’s current state from her being called the school slut, to her friends deserting her, to her going to a party and seeing her friend get raped, and later being raped herself. If this could all happen to the sweet, naive, painfully trusting girl then it could really happen to anyone. This contradicts the standard that only mentally ill people commit suicide and instead offers up the idea that maybe our own actions have a long-lasting result on other people’s mental state.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s revenge

In “13 Reasons Why” we hear Hannah’s thirteen tapes through her charmingly innocent friend and love interest, Clay. Devastated, confused and overwhelmed by Hannah’s suicide, Clay listens to each tape and stews in the wrongdoings of his classmates. His anger gets the best of him in several scenes, like when he confronts Hannah’s stalker and when he gets in fights with the school jocks for tormenting and harassing Hannah. I couldn’t help but cheer as Clay brought justice to each perpetrator and I completely lost it when Clay went to Bryce’s (Hannah’s rapist) house to sneakily work a confession out of him. Episode to episode I couldn’t wait to see what Clay did next to somehow try and avenge Hannah’s death.

Answers

Ultimately, the main reason anyone picks up the show is try to figure why this girl killed herself. This show attempts to answer a question that may be impossible to answer over why anyone commits suicide. “13 Reasons Why” does this to the best of it abilities and although it has caused mass controversy, the show answers the burning question. Similar to murder mysteries like “Twin Peaks,” each episode clues the audience in on what really happened to Laura Palmer or in “13 Reasons Why,” why Hannah kills herself. While there’s a million problems with how the show portrays mental illness, female protagonists and suicide, I’ve got to admit every episode left me on the edge of my seat wanting more. It tells us that all these moments of Hannah finding out she has a stalker to being deserted by her best friends to being labelled as “easy” by every guy in school have led to her final decision to end her life. The show sucks you in by promising a concrete cause for suicide but the answer it gives seems simplistic, threatening and too widely applicable. Probably the biggest reason people have gotten so up in arms against the show is due the fact that they couldn’t help but watch the entire thing. I may be a drama-hungry teenager obsessed with answering every question I can, but it seems to me so is everyone else who watched the show no matter if they loved or hated it.

Judge Persky isn’t the problem, you are.

While I’m relieved to see America’s outrage at Judge Persky’s ridiculously light sentence for rapist and Stanford athlete Brock Turner, we’re reacting to one case of epidemic sexual assault in this country. Turner’s sentence is not an anomaly. In America, we accept rape culture. It’s normalized, and Persky acted the way judges do every single day.

On Reel Girl, I recently posted this T-shirt that reads: Two Beers Three Margaritas Four Jello Shots Taking Home The Girl Who Drank All the Above PRICELESS

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I got a minimal response to my post.

It was two Swedes who reported Turner’s rape of this woman. Do you think two American frat boys would’ve done the same?

I’ve been reading Peggy Orenstein’s fantastic new book Girls and Sex in which author repeatedly references how the sex education programs in other countries are far superior to America’s curriculum, if we can call it that. One of the finest examples Orenestein cites is Sweden. How do most American kids learn about sex? Orenstein tells us the source of their education is porn.

What are American parents teaching their children about sex? What about violence against women?

I think we all know that Brock’s father argued his son’s life should not be ruined for “20 minutes of action.” Instead of teaching girls how not to get raped, when are parents going to teach their sons not to rape? How are parents going to teach kids to respect girls and women? What are you doing today to teach your kids about gender equality?

If you want to protest this shirt, it’s made by Iron Horse Helmets You can Tweet them: @IronHorseHelmet Call them: 1.800.978.9468

 

Join artist-warriors at the Bay Area Book Festival June 4 – 5

Are you coming to the Bay Area Book Festival June 4 – 5?

Here’s the poster my 9 year old daughter’s cartooning teacher, Aaron Southerland, made for the event. I love how it shows my daughter, her best friend, and her teacher wielding writing tools instead of weapons, because, truly, when it comes to changing the world, is there anything more powerful than art?

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To learn more about Alice’s book or to buy it click here.

Thank you, Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, for the courage to tell your story of sexual harassment at Yale

I read horrible shit every day as I know you do too, but this story of sexual harassment by a famous ethics professor at Yale made me cry. So hypocritical of Thomas Pogge, an intellectual star in the field of global ethics, and reminiscent to me of how “progressive” and “lefty” men– political leaders, professors etc– can be just as sexist and dismissive of women as anyone else. We need more women in power. Below you’ll find some quotes from the post, but please read the whole thing on Buzzfeed and share it.

 

In the 1990s, a student at Columbia University, where Pogge was then teaching, accused him of sexually harassing her. In 2010, a recent Yale graduate named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar accused Pogge of sexually harassing her and then retaliating against her by rescinding a fellowship offer. In 2014, a Ph.D. student at a European university accused Pogge of proffering career opportunities to her and other young women in his field as a pretext to beginning a sexual relationship.

Yale has known about these allegations, and others, for years. When Lopez Aguilar first reported Pogge for sexual harassment, she said, Yale offered to buy her silence with $2,000.

Eventually, a hearing panel did find “substantial evidence” that Pogge had acted unprofessionally and irresponsibly, noting “numerous incidents” where he “failed to uphold the standards of ethical behavior” expected of him. But the panel voted that there was “insufficient evidence to charge him with sexual harassment,” according to disciplinary records…

In October 2015, Lopez Aguilar filed a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that Yale violated Title IX, the statute that holds schools responsible for eliminating hostile educational environments caused by sexual harassment. Lopez Aguilar is asking the government to investigate whether Yale has ignored the “exhaustive attempts” she and others have made to prove Pogge is a danger to female students.

Her complaint also accuses Yale of violating Title VI, which prohibits race discrimination, on the grounds that Pogge specifically targets foreign women of color who were unfamiliar with how to navigate power in the United States.

The claims against Pogge pose critical questions about how universities manage the power dynamic between faculty members and students…

Lopez Aguilar grew up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She was a star student who published a book of poems about social justice at the age of 13; when she applied to college, her high school adviser wrote that she would one day be president. She enrolled at Yale in 2006, and took one of Pogge’s classes as a junior. When he agreed to supervise her senior thesis the following year, Lopez Aguilar was thrilled…

“He was my mentor,” Lopez Aguilar said. “Now I see that I was naive, but I thought he actually appreciated me for my intellect. I was flattered that he saw promise in me.”…

Only Pogge and Lopez Aguilar know what happened in that room, and Pogge has insisted to Yale he never made sexual comments or advances to her. But she later told the university that he asked her to join him in his bed to watch a movie, The Constant Gardner, on his laptop, with the lights off. That he said he couldn’t look at her in a black dress she wore because it was too “dangerous.” That he said perhaps she would consider marrying him someday. That he told the hotel staff to call them “Mr. and Mrs. Pogge.” That he mentioned he had been accused of sexual harassment at Columbia, and said she was “the Monica Lewinsky to his Bill Clinton…”

Eventually, Yale offered her a $2,000 settlement, on the condition that she sign away her right to pursue further claims against Pogge or the university — or to tell anyone about Pogge’s behavior from “the beginning of the world to the day of the date of this Release.”

The federal government has said that it’s illegal to use conditional nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases. But Yale treated Lopez Aguilar’s report as a workplace dispute, ignoring her claims of sexual harassment, her recent complaint states.

She signed the agreement. She said she didn’t think she had any recourse…

The following spring, however, 16 other current and former students filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education claiming that Yale had failed to properly address their sexual misconduct claims. A formal investigation was opened. (It concluded that Yale had underreported incidents of sexual violence “for a very long time,” among other violations.) Their complaint had nothing directly to do with Pogge, but it motivated Lopez Aguilar to try again…”

Read the whole story here.

Sick of sexism in cartoons? Inspiring course teaches girls to create and publish comics

 

St. George’s, how should law enforcement respond to 911 call about possible rape at your school?

SGS for Healing posted a shocking police report from 2011 revealing rape and subsequent cover ups at St. George’s school may not be, as the school seems to claim, events that only happened 30 years ago.

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The report states that a St. George’s campus security officer, Christopher Simanski, called 911 when he saw a male climb out the window of an all girls dorm and run towards the road with no shoes on. When Middletown police officer David Hurst arrived on the scene, Simanski told him he’d chased the male but couldn’t catch him. Simanski returned to the dorm, went to the room with the window, and saw a girl sitting on her bed crying, another girl sitting next to her. He wrote that she was upset, visibly shaken, and “indicated there had been a male in her room and on her bed.”

While Simanski was recounting the events to Hurst, the dean of students, Katie Titus, came out of the dorm and approached them. What do you think happened next? She helped them investigate a possible crime, right?

Here’s how Hurst tells it:

I asked Titus where the alleged victim was and Titus ignored my question and only replied by telling me that the girl was upset. I asked Titus again where the alleged victim was and again she did not answer me. I reiterated to Titus that I was there to investigate a possible assault or sexual assault and that I would need to speak to the victim to determine the nature of the incident and obtain crucial information for any possible suspects.

Titus still refused to let Hurst investigate, insisting that she would speak for the victim. She would speak for the victim? Hurst continued to press her, letting her know that he needed vital information. Titus gave him some information of her own. She said she knew the male who ran from the window. He was student who had just graduated. But then, she refused to give the officer his name or any other facts about him.

SGS for Healing writes:

When 911 is called and there’s a report that a girl may have been sexually assaulted, how the adults around her respond makes a world of difference. They can ensure that she gets immediate professional treatment and care, optimally provided by a team that includes a medical provider, a sexual assault examiner, and a rape crisis counselor. They can facilitate police evidence collection, which depending on the jurisdiction, needs to happen within days following the incident. This kind of rapid response leads to better health outcomes for victims and an increased chance that associated criminal charges are filed.

So what happened next?

According to the report, Titus told Hurst that she’d reached the recent graduate on her cell phone. (She had his number on her cell? Maybe that’s totally normal for a dean’s contact list in these digital days?) The nameless male assured Titus that he hadn’t been on campus. Hurst writes in his report: “Titus apparently accepted the alibi at face value.”  Again, she refused to give Hurst any more information about him. I haven’t read many police reports but this seems like an odd order of events. Was Titus trying to pacify the officer at first, saying she knew the male, thinking he’d leave it all alone, let her take this mess over? Then, when Hurst asked for more information, did Titus regret telling him she knew his identity? We’ll never know because just at that moment, Titus was called away for a family emergency.

Assistant dean, Lucy Goldstein, arrived on the scene to take over. More police officers also arrived, including a lieutenant who insisted on speaking to the girl to confirm the chain of events. At that point, Goldstein went and talked to the girl for 20 minutes before allowing the lieutenant to speak with her. The girl told him that she let the male into her room, they started kissing and he wanted it to become more intimate. She “declined” and he “agreed not to press the issue and left through the window.”

The report ends with:

Having no further evidence of a crime or witnesses to come forward to contradict the series of events, all units cleared from the scene. School safety supervisor Lombardi advised that he would follow up in the morning regarding how the school staff handled the initial investigation and its cooperation or lack there of in the investigation conducted by this department.

I don’t see any information that a follow up actually happened.

SGS for Healing writes that the report raises a number of questions including: Why didn’t the SGS Dean Katie Titus immediately allow the officer to see the female student? Why did the Middletown police call Ms. Titus uncooperative? Why did Ms. Titus call the adult male? Why didn’t she help the officer talk with him and why did she refuse to give the adult male student’s name and telephone number? Sometime after the Middletown Police were on the scene, a female sexual assault officer from Newport arrived. Why did the school continue to refuse to allow her access to the alleged victim? How did the school help the student get professional treatment and care? How were the police aided in gathering physical evidence?

Last night, I saw “Spotlight,” the movie about the sexual abuse and the Catholic church that just won the Best Picture Oscar. There’s a great line: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.” This story is so much bigger than St. George’s. It’s about how when institutions (whether its the church, the government, businesses, or schools) are put before individuals, children suffer. Ultimately, we all do because this pattern of abuse happens far too often and isn’t symptomatic of the kind of world healthy people have the great potential to create.

Katie Titus left St. George’s school this year. She’s about to start her new job as head of Mercersburg Academy, a boarding school in Pennsylvania.

 

 

Reel Girl’s posts about St. George’s are below. If you read them, you will see that as an alumna of the school, I started to write about the institutionalized sexism I witnessed there long before I learned about the rapes and cover-ups.

Open letter to Bishop Knisely about sexual assaults and cover ups at St. George’s school

Why is a justice who argued against statutory rape laws on the R. I. Supreme Court?

St. George’s school continues to hold back information in sexual assault investigation

St. George’s releases report on sexual assaults at the school

St. George’s alumna creates fund for survivors sexually assaulted at school

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school

Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

 

 

Open letter to Bishop Knisely about sexual assaults and cover ups at St. George’s school

This is an open letter from St. George’s alumna Jocelyn Davis to Bishop Nicholas Knisely, the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Rhode Island and Honorary Chair of the school’s Board of Directors. St. George’s is a prep school in Middletown, Rhode Island where sexual abuse was covered up by those in power for decades.

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Davis emailed Knisely on February 16, and he has not responded to her yet.

If you would like to send your own letter to the Bishop, please feel free to cut and paste from this one if that’s helpful to you. The more voices he hears calling for change, the more likely he is to take action. The bishop’s email is nicholas@episcopalri.org.

You can find more useful information about how to contact the people in power about  abuse at St. George’s on rebootsgs.org. It’s important to write them because so many of those in power, such as Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice William Robinson are connected to the case.

If you’re not familiar with the St. George’s sexual abuse and rapes, you can find all of Reel Girl’s posts about the school after the letter.

Here is Jocelyn Davis’s letter.

Dear Bishop Knisely,

I am an alumna of St George’s School (class of 1980). I understand the school is chartered by the Episcopal Church, Diocese of Rhode Island, and that you are Honorary Board Chair. You therefore have an extra measure of influence over the governance of the school, and that’s why I’m writing to you.

I have learned of the past abuses with a dismay I’m sure you share. A number of my classmates were affected. My dismay deepens, however, when I read about the actions of school leaders—leaders still in place today.

Dozens of children were raped or molested over decades. School leaders have condemned the abuse and funded an investigation; well and good. But what about those leaders who until a few months ago (and in some respects up until now):

– Failed to report the abuse to Rhode Island authorities, as required by law
– Failed to notify institutions where abusers were later employed, even after being specifically asked to do so by survivors
– Quibbled about the reporting laws as a way to excuse their inaction
– Placed gag orders on survivors, telling them what they can and cannot talk about
– Were dismissive of those survivors who mustered up the courage to demand meetings
– Denigrated survivors as malcontents, gold-diggers, or substandard students
– Reacted to the news not with heartfelt apologies, self-examination, and personal ownership, but with facile reassurances that “all that was in the past and everything is fine now”
– Have been dragged kicking and screaming by attorneys and the press, every step of the way—and then have had the gall to complain about “unfair” lawyers and media

I am aware of the ongoing independent investigation, and I can appreciate that it is impossible for you to take action until it is complete. Nevertheless, I urge you to reflect on the above points. I further urge you to use your influence, as soon as possible, to help bring about a wholesale change of leadership at St George’s, so a fresh start can be made.

For a specific plan to that effect, please see the website www.rebootsgs.com , created by my fellow alums Chris and Philip Williams.

One last thought: In my senior year at SGS, we read Dostoyevsky’s story of “The Grand Inquisitor.” I’m sure you know it well. In the fable, Christ returns to earth and is arrested. The Grand Inquisitor, pillar of the Church, visits him in his cell to tell him the Church no longer needs him; indeed, that the Church rejects his message of “individuals first” in favor of Satan’s message of “institution first.”

I can’t help but wonder whether Christ is knocking at the door of St George’s School right now. Forty-plus individuals, courageous survivors of abuse, are standing at his side, calling for justice. I hope you will open the door and stand with them.

Sincerely yours,

Jocelyn Roberts Davis ‘80

 

 

Reel Girl’s posts about St. George’s are below. If you read them, you will see that as an alumna of the school, I started to write about the institutionalized sexism I witnessed at the school long before I learned about the rapes and cover-ups.

Why is a justice who argued against statutory rape laws on the R. I. Supreme Court?

St. George’s school continues to hold back information in sexual assault investigation

St. George’s releases report on sexual assaults at the school

St. George’s alumna creates fund for survivors sexually assaulted at school

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school

Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

Why is a justice who argued against statutory rape laws on the R. I. Supreme Court?

If you’re a fan of Reel Girl, you know I blog about gender representation in children’s media and toys. For the past few months, I’ve been focusing all of my creative energy, mind power, and available time on finishing my book (a middle grade fantasy-adventure about two magical girls who save the world.) Apologies to those of you who want to know where my reviews are, including “Star Wars” (I LOVED it, so did all my kids) but I’ve got to finish this damn book. However, I’ve been pulled away from fairyland by a horrific story of sexual abuse and rape at one of my high school alma maters, St. George’s in Newport, R.I.

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Just yesterday, I blogged about how St. George’s continues to hold back information in its sexual assault investigation. The school will not release the name of the attorney who advised them not to report the rapist to child protective services. (State law requires that all persons must report suspected cases of child abuse to Rhode Island Child Protection within 24 hours “when they have, or had reasonable grounds to believe a child is being abused.”) It is possible that the attorney who recommended the school break the law is William P. Robinson, now a justice on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Robinson represented St. George’s in the 1980s when Anne Scott, a former student, filed a suit against the school. Though we don’t know if Robinson is the one who told the school not to report the perpetrator, court documents show he argued that if Scott, a 15 year old, had sex with Al Gibbs, the school’s 67 year old athletic trainer, it was consensual. When I blogged about all this yesterday, I asked if Robinson is a guy that we want on the R.I. Supreme Court, and this is the question I can’t stop thinking about. How did he get into this position of power with a public record of misogyny? I didn’t know about Robinson’s appalling argument blaming Scott for her rape and neither, most likely, did you, but whomever confirmed him to the court must have looked into his background and his case history. Probably multiple people checked him out. I don’t think it’s a fact that could’ve been missed or overlooked as Robinson didn’t just argue against statutory rape laws, he was publicly admonished for doing so. After Robinson suggested the sex was consensual, The Providence Journal reports the response was furious:

U.S. Magistrate Jacob Hagopian chastised Robinson:

” … Now you explain to me under the criminal laws of the United States, or of any state of this Union, or of any civilized country, where the element of it being volitional or non-volitional, or voluntary or non-voluntary, has anything to do with this type of detestable allegation made by a person who is not of age of consent, can you explain that to me?”

When Robinson tried to explain, Hagopian cut him off, stating, “It’s impossible. It violates the criminal laws of the United States.”

So why was Robinson allowed to be a judge on a state Supreme Court when he argued fiercely against the laws of a civilized country? Because he’s changed? He’s grown, come to his senses, and realized he made a mistake? Apparently not. When Robinson was asked if he was the attorney who advised St. George’s not to report the rapist to child protective services, he responded with this statement:

“In the 1980s, while engaged in the private practice of law, I represented St. George’s School in certain litigation in the federal court which has recently become the subject of interest in the media. I represented the client as an attorney must, zealously, ethically and to the best of my ability. I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.”

So in 2016, Robinson claims that his past argument against statutory rape was ethical. He says: “I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.” Is that OK with you, America? That a justice on a state’s Supreme Court argued against statutory rape? Do you think justices who share Robinson’s view are on your state’s Supreme Court? Do you want your country to take rape more seriously? Do you care about stopping this national epidemic?

in 2014 the federal government released the names of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual violence or harassment complaints. Under Obama, there has been more of an attempt than ever before to make ending rape a national priority. Still, Washington Post columnist George Will and others ridiculed the action and questioned the 1 in 5 statistic of women raped on campus, calling all this attention “rape hysteria.”

Rape is rampant in the USA because as a culture, we allow the violence to happen again and again. We punish and shame the survivor by elevating those who collaborated in silencing her. I don’t know how Robinson secured his position on the Supreme Court, but he shouldn’t be allowed to stay there.

Read my previous posts about St. Georges:

St. George’s school continues to hold back information in sexual assault investigation

St. George’s releases report on sexual assaults at the school

St. George’s alumna creates fund for survivors sexually assaulted at school

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school

Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

St. George’s school continues to hold back information in sexual assault investigation

St. George’s keeps assuring us that it’s concerned for the survivors of sexual assault, but why does the school continue to withhold information from the media about the cover up of rapes?

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In its report on the sexual assaults, the school stated it did not give information about any of the crimes to child protective services, a violation of state law, because their counsel advised them not to. After passing the buck and blaming their lawyers for their negligence, St. George’s refuses to disclose the name of the attorney who steered them on the wrong course.

One of the school’s lawyers listed in court documents is William P. Robinson III who now sits on the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Is Robinson the one who advised St. George’s not to report the perpetrators, all who went on to work around children, either in churches or in education? If Robinson did advise St. George’s to violate the law and his actions put other kids in danger, is he a guy we want on the R.I. Supreme Court? Obviously, that’s a rhetorical question.

Even if Robinson wasn’t the one to suggest St. George’s do nothing to prevent a child molester and rapist from hurting other kids, he’s recorded in court documents as arguing that if Anne Scott, a 15 year old student, had sex with Al Gibbs, a 67 year old athletic trainer, it was consensual. Explaining his actions, Robinson released this statement last week:

“In the 1980s, while engaged in the private practice of law, I represented St. George’s School in certain litigation in the federal court which has recently become the subject of interest in the media. I represented the client as an attorney must, zealously, ethically and to the best of my ability. I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.”

“Recently become the subject of interest in the media”??? Dude, this is not a story about Jennifer Lawrence tripping on the red carpet. The account is in the media because rapes were covered up by the school for years and more kids were sexually assaulted. Only now when other schools are finally hearing about perpetrators who went on to be employed with them, are they sending out letters about launching their own investigations into assault.

And what does this quote mean? “I represented the client as an attorney must, zealously, ethically, and to the best of my ability.” I’m assuming Robinson thinks its ethical to have no regard for statutory rape laws? Does Robinson still think a 15 year old can consent to sex with a 67 year old? And once again, I ask, if he does, should he be a judge on the R.I. Supreme Court? How is Anne Scott supposed to feel knowing that this guy ascended to the top of his field, that he holds a position of power and respect? Oh, that’s right, no one gives a shit how Scott feels. Which brings me back to St. George’s. This school cannot do much right. In spite of everything that’s happened, when every effort should be made at this time to be upfront and honest, the school chooses to be shady. Blame the lawyer, then don’t name the lawyer. Great strategy, St. George’s. I I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. All along, you’ve been withholding information to protect men in power.

‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

I’m reeling after reading two articles in today’s Boston Globe about sexual abuse at my former high school in the 70s and 80s (40 tell of sex abuse by students, staff at R.I. prep school and Student’s harrowing account of alleged abuse at St. George’s school), a 36 page report from lawyers representing survivors in response to the report from the school, and numerous accounts on a Facebook page detailing abuse along with records of complaints to the school that went ignored.

I am so profoundly disturbed and angry and sad that these kids were abused and no one helped them, that no reports were made to police at the time, and that while the teachers were finally fired, they went on to teach at other schools.

Here is what I want to blog about right now, this paragraph in the report from the lawyers for the survivors:

We have not included numerous first hand reports from alumni concerning the “culture” that existed at SGS during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. That has been described to us in accounts we feel are credible as misogynist, racist, homophobic and bullying. By not including those reports, we are in no way diminishing their importance or the need of SGS to address those reports, many of which have been made to the School already.

I went to St. George’s from 1983 – 1985 and I witnessed the misogyny, how girls were treated like second class citizens and I felt crazy. I thought there was something wrong with me. Before hearing about all this abuse, about two years ago, I wrote a blog titled: Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school. Here’s one paragraph:

What else do I remember about prejudice and boarding school? Boys sitting on a bench and rating girls who walked by from 1 – 10 on how hot they were. Dressing up as a bunny, along with all of the other new girls, including fishnets, ears, and a tail on “Casino night.” Being called “nappy face” by a boy because I had big lips and not knowing what that meant. Feeling exotic because I had dark hair. Learning the word “spearchucker” for the first time when one of the tiny minority of African-Americans was mocked.

Here are photos I posted a few times since, “Casino Night” where all the new girls were supposed to dress as playboy like bunnies.

 

Here are the boys, these are all photos from my 1984 yearbook:

 

 

Here is my friend and me, freshman referred to as “Todd’s Toys” in the yearbook, he was a senior prefect.

 

After St. George’s released its bullshit report, which I posted in full, an alumna who had been raped and contacted me after I’d blogged about Casino Night, commented to me: “The Report is very narrowly defined. There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.”

The stories coming out are so horrific that these photos I’m posting seem tame in comparison, but I hope that the school, and all schools, the legal team for the survivors, and the media address the sexism and misogyny the existed then and most likely exists today at these enclaves of “privilege.” Parents, teachers, curriculum, student government, clubs etc all contribute to a culture that allows rape to happen and go on happening. As I wrote in my last blog about the abuse, many boys were abused but I strongly believe a culture that values girls as well as boys is a safer, healthier, happier place for everyone.

Speaking of health, tomorrow is my birthday, I’ll be 47. The older I get, the happier I get. There are probably many reasons for this, but one factor is I’ve lived long enough to finally trust and believe in my own experiences. Many times in my life, I’ve been told by people who I looked up to or trusted or were important to me, that my experiences never happened, weren’t important, or didn’t matter. I think being repeatedly told that things I saw weren’t there is one reason I started blogging about sexism in children’s movies-– something that was glaringly obvious to me seemed invisible to others.

Thank you to all the survivors for having the courage to tell your own stories.